Audi RS7 Sportback Performance (2016) review

Published:20 June 2016

The new Audi RS7 Sportback Performance rocketship: 597bhp and counting
  • At a glance
  • 3 out of 5
  • 5 out of 5
  • 3 out of 5
  • 3 out of 5
  • 3 out of 5

By Gareth Evans

Contributor, historic racer and now running sister title Motor Cycle News's website

By Gareth Evans

Contributor, historic racer and now running sister title Motor Cycle News's website

► Audi RS7 Performance tested
► Meet the 597bhp bi-turbo A7
► But do you really need it?

Meet the new Audi RS7 Sportback Performance. Can you guess what’s new? That’s right: more performance, more power, more speed. And not much else. 

Even before this update the rabid RS7 was a difficult car to place. It’s an RS6 Avant under that svelte hatchback body - but without the big boot and low load lip. And at £97,530 before extras for this RS7 Performance pack, you pay extra for less practicality...  

Still, the RS6/7 recipe has never been anything less than volatile: an animal of a twin-turbo V8 sending violent pulses of torque through an eight-speed auto ‘box we feel quite sorry for, and out to all four wheels via Quattro (what else?) all-wheel drive. It’s capable of the sorts of speeds you’ll never get bored of, according to Audi, which quotes 0-62mph in just 3.7sec!  

Click here to read about the machine-driven driverless Audi RS7

The question is, does the new Audi RS7 Performance drive any better than before?

Not really. Its electronic steering is still totally mute, obeying inputs but never letting you know what’s happening under the front wheels. It’s over-assisted too – even in Dynamic mode – which has the effect of making the nose feel very light. You’ve never quite got the confidence to throw the RS7 into a corner with enough enthusiasm to trouble the chassis, so any promise of playful handling (such as the Sport Rear Differential noted on the spec sheet) is largely irrelevant. You’d need a circuit to find out if it’s anything other than pub-bar prop-up fodder. 

In fact, the steering’s biggest talent is a surprisingly tight turning circle, which probably tells you all you need to know about the people buying these cars. It’s more at home in a multi-storey than lapping Mallory Park. 

There’s no denying it wouldn’t sound pant-dampeningly fantastic in a concrete car park, though. You’d be hard-pushed to find a difference in the racket this thing makes; it still sounds like a monster V8, complete with guttural frrraaps of unburnt fuel on the overrun when you’re in full-bore Dynamic mode. 

So the bi-turbo V8 engine’s still the highlight? 

Yep, but paradoxically it’s better at lower speeds. From a technical geekery point of view it's nigh-on impossible to hear or feel half the V8's cylinders cutting in and out on demand, which is frankly witchcraft because even driven slowly the RS7 Performance has all the fizz of a proper V8 muscle car.

Put your foot down and Audi claims there’s an extra 44bhp to play with along with another 37lb ft on overboost for up to 15 seconds, but such is the sheer heft of the standard RS7 combined with its already ballistic performance, you’re only going to notice the extra go in a drag race. On paper it’s 0.2 seconds faster to 62mph for another £6575, which sounds to us like not much more for too much money.

Of course the RS7 Performance still squats low over its rear wheels and attacks the horizon like a rabid cat when you nail the throttle, and stopping is almost as impressive even without the optional carbon-ceramic brakes that seem almost exclusively bolted to performance test cars these days. Keep it real; keep it steel. Unless you’re going on a track, in which case you’ve bought the wrong car anyway. 

We were surprised at the ride quality, too. It’s nicely judged in general; even in Dynamic mode the adaptive air-sprung suspension is so compliant we began to wonder whether this was a sporty Audi after all. This was on UK roads too, before you ask... 

Verdict

We’re struggling to see the justification for this upgrade to the RS7, but that won’t stop people spending their cash on it. The sorts of buyers Audi tempts with cars like this will probably also pick the £5675 matt paintjob along with every other option on offer. Spec like this and it’ll end up as a £125k A7 - and that makes the premium for the Performance pack a veritable drop in the ocean. 

So this is an improvement for the sake of it rather than a pragmatic punt. Still, if Audi can sell them, then why not?

Click here for more Audi reviews

Specs

Price when new: £97,530
On sale in the UK: Now
Engine: 3993cc turbocharged V8 DOHC, 597bhp @ 6100rpm, 553lb ft (on overboost) @ 2500-5500rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed auto, all-wheel drive
Performance: 3.7sec 0-62mph, 155mph, 29.7mpg, 221g/km CO2
Weight / material: 1930kg/steel
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 5012/1911/1419mm

Rivals

Other Models

Audi A7 Cars for Sale

View all Audi A7 Cars for Sale

Photo Gallery

  • Easy to nudge into six-figure price territory: the Audi RS7 Performance pack
  • Like an RS6 Avant, but in a slinkier, four-door coupe bodystyle
  • Squashed four-door coupaloon vibe intact on Audi's RS7
  • Inside the Audi RS7 Sportback's cabin
  • 0-62mph in just 3.7sec. Yes, really...
  • Twin turbos breathe hard on 4.0-litre V8 in 2016 Audi RS6 Performance
  • Large boot useful in Audi's A7 body shell
  • This thing's so torquey, you won't need to wring this out to the redline

By Gareth Evans

Contributor, historic racer and now running sister title Motor Cycle News's website

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